The high cost of treating Alzheimer's disease

The high cost of treating Alzheimer's disease

A new report looking at the cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. projects a national crisis that is worsening by the day and driving huge cost increases in government health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Over the next four decades, according to the report by the Alzheimer’s Association, the annual cost of treating people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is projected to grow from $172 billion this year to $1.08 trillion, with Medicare costs rising more than 600 percent and Medicaid costs rising 400 percent between now and 2050.

The numbers reflect direct out-of-pocket costs and what all insurance payers, both private and government programs, pay. The cost of unpaid care provided by family members and others (worth another $144 billion in 2009) wasn’t included, the organization said.

Part of the growth in expenses will come with the growth in people over age 65 who will have Alzheimer’s — currently about 5.1 million and projected to grow to 13.5 million in 2050.

There aren’t any treatments to prevent, cure or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease and the most common form of dementia. But even small treatment developments could reverse the trajectory of the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association said.

The report, Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s Disease: A National Imperative, includes the impacts that two hypothetical treatment breakthroughs — one to delay onset and one to slow progression of the disease — would have.

For example:
— A treatment to delay onset of the disease for five years that would begin to show its effect in 2015 would cut the total number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s from  a projected 5.6 million to 4 million in 2020.
— A treatment slowing the progression of the disease in 2015 would reduce the number of people age 65 and older who are in the severe state of Alzheimer’s in 2020 from 2.4 million to 1.1 million.
— Annual Medicare savings (compared to current trends) from the two hypothetical treatments combined in 2020 would be $53 billion.

Sound too good to be true? The Alzheimer’s Association says the scenarios are similar in assumptions and results to what has already been achieved in other diseases and conditions society has committed to overcome: heart diseases, stroke, some cancers and HIV/AIDS.

“A similar commitment to overcome Alzheimer’s could reduce the devastating impact of the condition and significantly decrease the expected costs of caring for those with them,” the report concludes.

Read the full report at www.alz.org/trajectory.
 

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